Encompassing Ouvéa, the Isle of Pines, Lifou, Tiga and Maré, the five islands that border New Caledonia’s main island are a slice of island paradise just waiting to be discovered. From the Blue Hole of Hanawa on Ouvéa and Warrior’s Leap on Maré to the Jokin Cliffs on Lifour and the Isle of Pines’ Oro Bay, New Caledonia’s islands and their incredible natural beauty are nothing short of captivating.
While the Isle of Pines was first reached by James Cook in 1774 during his second voyage towards New Zealand, the ‘discovery’ of the four islands which make up the Loyalty Islands was not actually his work. The first acknowledgement of these islands in fact dates back to 1803 when William Raven, captain of the Britannia, gave the name of his ship to Maré. Those we now call the Loyalty Islands did ‘play hard to get’ before unveiling their charms to the world. And what charms!
Each of New Caledonia’s islands has its own character
Although New Caledonia’s islands sit in close proximity to each other, each boasts its own unique character, fantastic attractions and incredible reasons to visit. Discover what makes Ouvéa, the Isle of Pines, Lifou, Tiga and Maré each so special.
On Ouvéa, the combined beauty of the sky, the lagoon and the flora have earned it the title of the closest island to paradise. This is a well-deserved title for the island which offers a fabulous beach of white sand stretching for almost 25 km, majestic coconut plantations and extraordinary diving sites, especially around the Pléïades Reef. At the Mouli Bridge, connecting Lékiny to the main island, you can see the spectacle of turtles and eagle rays that move through the channel daily, to the great delight of tourists.
Lifou is characterised by its variety of scenery, combining immaculate beaches, steep cliffs, deep forests and impressive caves. The largest of the Loyalty Islands, Lifou is perhaps the one that showcases the greatest contrasts, catering perfectly for the tourists who travel wide and far to visit. From the vanilla plantations that call the island home to its incredible diving and hiking opportunities, Lifou is nothing short of an adventurer’s paradise.
As for Maré, the intense, wild beauty of its scenery, and the deep connection that the Mareans have with nature, have given this island a very personal identity. Said to be one of the archipelago’s best kept secrets. the island will certainly leave a lasting impression on those who take the time to discover it.
Further south, the Isle of Pines is, without question, Ouvéa’s greatest rival for the title of the closest island to paradise. The Oro, Kuto and Kanumera Bays offer an astonishing spectacle of beauty and harmony, while the remnants of the island's penal colony, testify, in a moving way, to a bygone age. Named for the towering pine trees scattered across the island, it remains among the most popular destinations for New Caledonia’s visitors, offering plenty of things to do and see.
Life on Tiga, the smallest of the Loyalty Islands, is largely traditional, offering a window into life across the region in days gone by. Home to just a shop, church and post office, this is a destination that offers the perfect disconnect from modern life, with no shortage of natural beauty and so much to learn from the tribe that calls the island home. With no restaurants, hotels or electricity, Tiga is an authentic slice of island paradise situated midway between Maré and Lifou.
While French is the common language across New Caledonia’s islands, each has its own vernacular language. Nengone is most common on Maré, while Drehu is spoken on Lifou and Kunié is the language of the Isle of Pines. Ouvéa, on the other hand, has two separate languages: the lay language, Melanesian, and Faga-Uvéa, spoken by the descendants of the Wallisians. This language has kept the morphology and syntax of Polynesian, while borrowing from the Melanesian languages.
Discover the must-sees of the IslandsVoir plus
The Oumagne Grotto, better known as the Cave of Queen Hortense, is located in the north of Kunié (Isle of Pines), not far from the aerodrome. A site you must not miss!Read more
Situated at the south of the Kuto peninsula, Kanumera Bay offers a view over a stunning fine white sand beach, like its neighbour, Kuto BayRead more
A heavenly climate
The islands of New Caledonia enjoy an extremely pleasant climate, with average temperatures between 22°C on Maré and 24°C on Ouvéa, with seasonal variations of no more than 6°C. In addition, since there are no mountains to pull in and retain the clouds, there is very little rain, meaning that the weather is particularly favourable for both tourism and leisure!